Sunday, March 15, 2020

Health in socialism

Premature death arises from three sources: infectious contagious diseases; non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, cancer, nutritional diseases; and then there are accidents and violence. Death, however does not strike randomly. Poverty and deprivation has been called “the cause of the cause”.

As the world faces a virus pandemic not suffered for many decades it might be useful to raise the subject of what health-care would perhaps look like in a future socialist society. But first a precautionary caveat in that the Socialist Party doesn’t have a blueprint.

 However, we can speculate with educated guesses and in comparison with present-day society. Socialism could, and would, get things in their right priority. That resources to beat disease would be put into place rather than science and technology being devoted to the armaments industries to build more fearful weaponry.

 Health care under capitalism is a nightmare for working people.

 The real solution then has to be a radical one, where social inequality will no longer give rise to unequal lives and unequal deaths. With socialism health care and hospitals will no longer be a means to make profit, but a means for the working people to prevent disease and to preserve the health of the people.

 In a socialist society people matter, and a high priority will be given to services for health and welfare. Good health is not simply the avoidance of disease, but is a positive state of well-being. Among other things this requires good housing, security and enjoyment of work, and facilities for leisure to make our non-working hours restful and enjoyable. As a result of stress reduction, no more worrying about salary or wages from the job, no more worrying about keeping up the payments on the house, increased leisure time – all these various factors will surely result in improved relationships all round and, quite soon, a healthier workforce.

A socialist health service would place particular emphasis on preventive medicine, encouraged by an imaginative programme of health education.

In socialism, hospitals would be run in accordance with the wishes of the wider community and not, as at present, by some Health Trust’s balance sheet, formulated by some manager or bureaucrat.

At present there are huge variations in standards of health care around the world and also massive discrepancies in availability. Universal health care simply does not exist. It is all tied in to the ability to pay. Let's remove this barrier to good health and care of the sick by removing the money element and offer all services, treatments, drugs and medicines free of charge. Hospitals and clinics then will be free of top-heavy budget management and will be able to access resources, whether staff, equipment or drugs, according to their requirements and not limited by financial constraints. Medical researchers, now mostly tied to global corporations and limited by them in the areas of their research, will be able to concentrate on eradicating diseases and providing the best remedies for all. World diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and polio will soon be a thing of the past when money, too, is history.

Work and training in one of the many varied avenues of health care will be open to those from the pool of post-money redundant sectors. With the shift from a market economy to societies geared to fulfilling human needs there will probably be more priority given to preventive medicine and appropriate information on suitable diet and healthy living.

Hospitals wouldn't need to beg for charity to fund research into new vaccines. It wouldn't involve what is described today as bed-blocking where patients are being returned before they are fully recuperated to cramped, damp, cold housing with brief visits from district nurses and carers rather than provided with convalescence.

Socialist healthcare will not be a patch-’em-up-and-get-’em-back-to-work-as-cheaply-as-possible health service.

The replacement of a society based on production for profit  will not of course mean the disappearance of sick or disabled people, but it will certainly change for the better the way they are treated. Whether someone enjoys perfect health or suffers slightly or severely from an ailment of some kind will make no difference to the free and equal access they will have to the goods and services society is able to produce. 

Whether someone enjoys perfect health or suffers slightly or severely from an ailment of some kind will make no difference to the free and equal access they will have to the goods and services society is able to produce. 

Those who are fit, able and desire to work, will avail themselves of the tools necessary and free in order to enable them to do so. Those who cannot, can be assured of a decent quality of life without the insecurity of having to depend on government handouts that barely cover what is needed in order to sustain basic human needs and life itself.

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